Monday, March 07, 2005

Movie: Slaughter Trail (1951)

Demonstrating a loose understanding of the word ‘classic,’ Turner Classic Movies aired this RKO relic as part of their Brian Donlevy tribute. It was an odd choice, and not just because the actor was only cast after the film’s original star Howard Da Silva was blacklisted and RKO chief Howard Hughes ordered all of his scenes reshot. SLAUGHTER TRAIL is easily one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. We’re talking Ed Wood meets the sagebrush bad.

It’s only 78 minutes long, but there’s not enough plot to sustain an episode of BONANZA. The filmmakers still seem to think that we won’t be able to follow the story, so they tacked on musical narration by Terry Gilkyson that tells us exactly what’s unfolding onscreen, as if we won’t believe our own eyes. To further confuse matters, Gilkyson appears in the film as a singing cavalry officer – raising the question of how he can be recounting events that take place miles away. The only possible answer: the U.S. government’s experiments with remote viewing began a long time ago.

The movie did remind me of a favorite toy from my childhood, this Fort Cheyenne play set. Cat not included.

TV: Dan Rather Signs Off

I can’t call myself a Rather fan. His folksy but tough demeanor always seemed calculated to me, an impression borne out by Ken Auletta’s profile of Rather in the March 7th issue of The New Yorker. The article’s most shocking revelation is that many of Rather’s CBS colleagues preferred Brokaw or Jennings.

Stephen King once said that he watched Rather because he was certain that one night, Dan would snap on air and start telling the truth about Area 51, the Freemasons and what really happened to Elvis Presley. Rather, warts and all, is a genuine character, and that’s why I’m sorry to see him go. His eventual replacement will turn out to be an amiable automaton like NBC’s Brian Williams, and TV will be poorer because of it.